The Los Angeles Charters’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor had one of his ribs accidentally punctured by a team doctor this week. The incident occurred while the doctor was administering an injection of painkillers to Taylor’s cracked ribs after he sustained an injury at the start of the football season.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn was quick to reassure the press and fans of the team on Wednesday that Taylor’s new injury would not be career-ending, and that an investigation was already underway. “Tyrod’s not angry, not upset,” he told ESPN.
In a new YouTube video, physical medicine and rehab specialist Dr. Brian Sutterer explains what may have gone wrong when the medic was trying to give Taylor a nerve-blocking injection at the intercostal nerve to aid in pain relief before the game.
“It’s these nerves that supply innervation to those structures, so if you can block or numb those nerves, then your body’s not experiencing the pain from the rib injury,” he says. “The challenge here is how close those nerves are to the lung. This is literally millimeters of space… In the case of Taylor, basically the needle went too deep, and punctured into the lung, which caused this pneumothorax, or collapsed lung.”
If air inadvertently gets introduced into that space, the pressure goes up, which pushes on the lung, causing it to collapse. In this case, if a needle gets into the tiny air-filled alveoli, it can pop them, releasing inhaled air and causing the pressure to go up.
Treatment for a pneumothorax can involve inserting a needle into the lung to suck out the excess air, reducing pressure and re-neutralizing that space. In more serious cases, a tube may need to be inserted to drain the air. “We don’t know what Taylor had to have done, but hopefully he didn’t require a chest tube to be placed, because that’s certainly going to be a much longer absence,” he says.